Thursday, October 19, 2006

A College Degree to Teach the ABC's?

In a recent article, Slate columnist Emily Bazelon examines the issue of whether or not schools should require preschool teachers to hold college degrees. Some argue that preschool teachers do not obtain the necessary job skills by taking college courses. In fact, the characteristics often deemed most important to the job, such as a warm and nurturing personality, are innate qualities that cannot be taught in a classroom. People who have the natural ability and desire to teach young children but aren’t academically inclined shouldn’t be discouraged by a college degree requirement.

On the other hand, Bazelon notes that children would surely benefit from the general knowledge and cultural sensitivity that a college education imparts. This argument is especially pertinent to low-income children, whose parents are often unable to provide an adequate amount of intellectual stimulation at home.

Although these facts suggest it may be optimal to have all preschool teachers be college educated, the traditionally low salaries paid to preschool teachers make it difficult for schools to attract a highly educated pool of candidates. Some states, such as New Jersey, are responding to this dilemma by offering a financial incentive—schools will pay their teachers to go to college and increase their salaries upon graduation.

Two theories help explain why schools reward teachers who obtain a degree. According to the signaling theory of education, teachers are able to communicate to schools that they are intelligent, hard-working people by demonstrating these qualities in an academic setting. In this model, it isn't the case that college makes people better teachers—rather, better teachers are the ones who choose to go to college. According to the human-capital theory of education, the act of going to college makes people better preschool teachers.

1. Which theory do you think applies more in the case of preschool teachers? If you think it's the signaling theory, then does New Jersey's policy make sense?

2. Would a college degree requirement for preschool teachers entice more parents to enroll their children in preschool? How will this affect college enrollment rates in the future?

3. Recent education legislation enacted under No Child Left Behind increases the accountability of elementary school teachers. What effect does this have on the market for preschool teachers? Should preschool teachers also be required to meet certain state standards? What effect would such a requirement have on the labor market for preschool teachers and elementary school teachers?

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  • At 12:59 AM, February 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Teaching kids the ABC, teaching kids that will grow up to build this world and change it and make it better. Let's give these kids all we can so they can make a difference and bring love, compassion and harmony into the world. A college
    can only help further the cause.


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